Though she would rather not visit the States, Alice decided she needed to go there to see if Janet could be helped. Shoshana felt she had to help, though in reality, she’d suffered terribly to protect the little 12 year-old girl almost seven years ago. Tim had found her, of course. Alice suspected she might be too far gone to save. As she could hurt Shoshana terribly, Alice wanted to evaluate her before bringing her to the compound.
She still traveled in disguise, though she thought it ridiculous. She’d had facial surgery. The crush of people at LAX shocked her. She’d become accustomed to Australia where crowds were rare.
Tim waited outside customs control and flew with her to New York. Along the way he filled her in, though she knew she would remember little. The jet lag was just too much.
“Janet was actually 11 when they raped her. She turned 12 the next day. Thomas befriended her in a clothing store. She thought they were going to have a birthday party for her. They figured she’d never tell if they made her suck the dog.”
“You don’t have to tell me the rest about that night,” Alice said sadly. She’d spent several harrowing nights with Shoshana in her cabin reliving every detail.
“Anyway, when she got home, she told her Mom who called the cops. Because she’d been cleaned up, there were no forensics, just evidence of penetration that could or could not have been consensual. Still it was statutory rape. The kids’ parents bought the father and mother off. Settlements were sealed, but it looks like they got about $250,000. Janet never saw a penny. She went to counseling for a while, but stopped when it started to eat into the settlement. The money went into a new house, some vacations for her parents and a couple of new cars.”
“About six months after the rape, she began to act out pretty bad. Lots of fights at school until they threw her out in eighth grade and sent her to a troubled kids school. She did OK, but then her brother apparently had sex with her, at least that’s what the counselor at the school thought,” he said expecting the next question, “Janet signed a release so I could get her records. I don’t think she knows it’s in them.”
“Then it got pretty sick. She was passed around to his friends, got the clap three times, other STDs and started on drugs, mostly cocaine. She turned to performing on Internet sex sites to get money. Eventually she went all out and joined an escort service specializing in young girls.”
Tim handed her a large envelope. When she emptied the contents, she had a lapful of pictures, papers, a memory card and a flash drive.
”The cops never found the flash drive. It’s got her rape and Shoshana’s rape and torture on it. They recorded everything. They were sadistic animals. The girl was worse than Thomas.”
She looked into Tim’s hard eyes. Though it had never been spoken out loud, she knew they were all roasting in hell, a place they probably welcomed after Tim and his friends had finished. In fact one was still alive. He was a quadriplegic after being knifed from behind. Frank knew his anatomy.
“You watched it?”
He nodded angrily, but continued, “The mom and dad split about three years ago. Apparently Janet had a lot to do with that or maybe it was the brother having sex with her, but the divorce got pretty nasty. The son joined the Army. The mother started to drink and eventually threw Janet out. She went to a shelter and started talking to a rape consular. She left a couple of days later when a friend took her in. She’s been turning tricks since.”
“I found her through an escort service, told her who I was and that someone wanted to help. She signed the release with no question. I think she wants the help, just can’t get it.”
Alice thought that interesting.
“Tim, you’ve known a lot of punks. Is she one of them? Michael said you had the best people instincts he’s ever seen.”
Tim’s eyes warmed, knowing that his friend respected his skills.
“I don’t think so. I think she’s been so badly used, you may not be able to save her, but I didn’t get the sense that she was trying to play me. She’s gotten a complete physical. I’ve got the reports for Jennifer if you take her back. I’ve got her in a suite near the office. I told her that if she turned another trick or did drugs, all this would end. According to my guys, she’s sticking to the rules.”
Alice began to go through the papers and photos. The first one was of a young girl with fine brown hair and luminous green eyes and delicate features. She had a high forehead and flawless, pale complexion; a long, thin upturned nose and an oval mouth with a pouting lower lip.
The next was of Janet now. The same basic features, but with no smile and hard green eyes. Without those eyes, she would have been beautiful. Another picture was from an Internet site. She had upturned breasts and pink, almost red nipples and a tramp stamp tattoo on the small of her back.
Alice picked up the reports from Tim’s men and began to read. Tim had condensed nearly fifty pages into a five-minute briefing. He hadn’t missed anything of importance. Maybe that’s why he was the boss.
Then she read the counselor reports. Each had noted Janet’s hate of the woman who had prepared her for her rape. Alice wondered why she had left her daughter and her family. Janet seemed to be too far gone for reason to reach her.
Finally she sat back and closed her eyes, trying to decide how to play their first meeting. She’d almost told Michael that under no circumstances should Janet be allowed into the compound, but Shoshana’s pleading eyes had stopped her. There just might be a chance for this girl. Alice cleared her mind of any preconceptions.
Two days later they met at a restaurant near Janet’s apartment.
After introductions, Tim excused himself.
“Tell me about your dreams for tomorrow,” Alice began.
Late that night she phoned Michael.
“She’s badly scarred, inside and out. She’s incredibly bitter and angry. She thinks Shoshana was part of the rape and blames her as much as the boys,” she said to Michael over the satellite connection, “I don’t think it would be a good idea to bring her to the house.”
“Please try to get her to understand what really happened. Please!” Shoshana pled for the girl that hated her.
“Show her the video. All of it. If she still thinks Shoshana was part of it, she’s too far gone with hate and bitterness. Come home alone, Honey. We miss you and love you.” Michael terminated the connection, turned and took a sobbing Shoshana in his arms, “Now it’s up to her, my beautiful wife.”
Her head snapped up. Shoshana routinely called Michael husband, but this was the first time he had called her his wife. She went from dreadful depression to heavenly heights. Alice told him to use the word if he ever had to get Shoshana out of her dark place where hideous pain still waited.
It gave Michael an idea. He put it away for another time.
Alice and Janet sat in a closed conference room in Tim’s facility.
“Janet,” Alice said, “you may not remember, but they recorded your rape. It’s on this machine. If you want me here, I’ll stay. If not, I’ll leave. But watch the whole video. Will you promise me to do that?”
Janet trusted this woman who seemed to be trying to help. Janet knew there was something at the end that Alice wanted her to see.
She reached out and put her hand on Alice’s. “I’m not sure I can go through this alone. Please stay.”
Alice clicked “play” and found herself introduced to hell.
Nearly three hours later, they hit pause with Shoshana being forced to suck the dog. Two visibly shaken women clutched each other, trembling and crying.
Finally Alice got her control back.
“They were going to do that to me?”
Alice nodded, “they figured you wouldn’t tell if they had videos of you and the dog.”
“That woman really saved me? She wasn’t part of it?” Alice shook her head, waiting to see if it had imprinted, but all she saw was confusion.
She clicked “Play” and the video continued.
“Oh my God!” Janet screamed as Shoshana writhed in agony on the bathroom floor, bleeding heavily.
Alice waited as the video ended. Janet had to choose a path, either stubborn hate or realization of the truth.
“Is she alive?”
Alice nodded hope filling her eyes, mentally willing Janet to take the next step.
“I’ve hated her for so long and all she tried to do was help me,” Janet wailed, her world shattering. Hate had sustained her. It defined her. She felt she was falling with nothing to grab onto.
Alice took the weeping girl in her arms, mentally taking exception to the “no mothering” rule.
Three days and many sessions later, they were again in Tim’s offices in front of a video screen. Alice felt she had successfully imprinted hope into Janet’s heart. Her hard green eyes now shone with that hope and a little fear.
During the sessions, Janet had asked Alice many times who was paying for this. Alice refused to tell her.
Alice clicked play.
Beth appeared on the screen. “Hello Janet. My name is Beth. About eight months after you were raped, the same animals raped me. I forgave them because my hate and bitterness was ruining my life and the lives of the people around me.
They took my ability to conceive a child, but my life partner and I found a way around that.
I carry the scars inside, just as you do.
Alice is there because she is part of our family and we want to help. We live very far away near the sea. Honey, we can never change what happened, but if you come to us, we’ll try to help you heal.
There’s a video of me on You Tube. Take a look.
There’s someone else who would like to invite you.
Alice watched Janet closely for signs of anger or hate.
Janet, I am so sorry I couldn’t stop them. I tried, I swear, I tried. Come to us and let us help you. Please come soon.
The video ended.
“After taking my place, she’s sorry she couldn’t stop those eight animals? Is she crazy? She stopped six of them!”
“I think she’d like to hear those very words, Honey,” Tim said softly, “Shoshana is a gentle soul and has suffered more than any human being I know.”
“Before you make up your mind, you’ve got to know some things. First, we live a pretty closed life. Some people hate us and would love to find us. Then people would die, perhaps many people. If you come, we’ll do everything we can to help you, but you can never tell anyone where we are. Can you keep that secret? Many lives, including my baby’s depend on us staying hidden,” Alice said. Inside Tim smiled. Alice had told him that the shared terror had allowed the girls to heal and form an incredibly strong bond. He really did not think the danger was significant.
“Second, We’re a family. Shoshana saved you. I’m here because you hated her for a long time. If you hurt her, you will not be welcome. Don’t for a moment think you’re over that hate. You’re not. If you let that hate out anywhere but with me, the family will turn on you. Think if you have the strength to keep the hate inside until we kill it.”
“We have one man. He’s strong, but he has a tortured soul. He cannot abide violence or threats to his family. We sleep with him. We share him and each other. We once had eleven members of the harem, but now there are six of us. Two died and three recently left. We are not asking you to join. We just want to let you know what kind of life it will be.”
“Do you want to go?” Alice asked gently, “it’s a long trip, and you probably won’t be coming back for quite a while.”
“I want to go more than anything in life.”
She hugged Tim, “Thank you.”
He took Alice aside, “Mike’s still having the nightmares?”
“We never knew what he had walled off and almost destroyed him a couple of years ago. But yes, he still has the nightmares but that beast is still caged most of the time.”
Tim shook his head sadly. There was nothing to say.
They traveled in Afghan clothes; testing Alice’s idea that shared terror might help Janet bond. Alice prayed that she had not brought a viper into their garden. The security arrangements were real, though. Tim insisted.
In Los Angeles International Airport, they were in the airport lounge when Jose walked by them. Alice almost fainted. Tim’s agent, also in Afghan clothes saw her stagger, taking her arm. “That man was a Zapata lieutenant and he knows me,” she whispered.
He took them by pre-planned route to a secluded room. The security men began a choreographed set of moves. One group surveiled Jose. They notified Tim and activated the alternate arrangements.
Alice told Janet that she had seen a man that wanted them dead. Janet and Alice were genuinely terrified. Though it had been many years, everyone in the cartel knew Rafaela had fled with Alice. Even with her facial surgery, Alice still looked like herself. The surgery had been done to prevent facial recognition software from locking on.
They were whisked into a waiting Escalade with tinted windows and driven from the airport to a secure location. Their flights were cancelled. They were rerouted through San Francisco. Tim’s network went into high gear. Cell phones were tapped. NSA owed Tim many favors. He collected a few.
Apparently Jose never had any idea Alice was meters from him. Alice’s psychological trick to begin bonding with Janet may have saved everyone.
When Michael heard, he was near apoplexy. The nightmares began. Only Beth and Shoshana could reach him.
When Alice and Janet arrived, he ran to the chopper. Alice looked and was exhausted, but she jumped into his arms.
“Never again.” He said over and over.
Alice had always felt she was a second tier woman for him. The strength of his love overwhelmed her. She surrendered her soul to this tormented man.
Shoshana waited impatiently, but Alice had been explicit. Let Janet come to her.
When she climbed out, Janet looked across the waiting women and children. Seeing Shoshana, she burst into a run. In a moment they were in each other’s arms, crying.
“Thank you,” Janet said, “You’re the bravest and most wonderful woman I’ve ever seen. You saved me!”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop them,” Shoshana began.
Janet pushed her an arms length away so she could look into Shoshana’s anguished eyes. “YOU SAVED ME!” Janet said a bit more strident than she had intended, “They tortured you, ruined your ability to carry a child, made you endure things that no woman should even think about, all because you saved me! You’re a hero!”
“Now you bring me to the one place that may help me, endangering your whole family and you’re sorry you only stopped six of the eight? Are you crazy? I could never have endured what you did. You saved my life.”
Alice held Michele, but watched carefully. Alice knew that the hate still lay coiled inside Janet. Alice hoped it was now solely directed at those who had hurt her.
By unspoken agreement, they went to the lap pool, children in tow. Shoshana introduced Janet to her harem mates, Becka and Sandy along the way.
Shoshana showed Janet her room. A bathing suit lay waiting on the dresser. Shoshana darted off to change and was waiting when Janet opened the bedroom door.
They walked into Janet’s new life, hand in hand.
Janet had been told that the people were wealthy, but she began to understand how inadequate that description had been. Clearly the wealth that surrounded these people began with a “B”.
Alice watched Janet carefully as she was exposed to their wealth. Though Janet had apparently dabbled with drugs, she’d never become fully lost in that world. Alice saw signs of wonder in those sparkling green eyes, but no avarice.
Alice had given Janet a short background of each of the women. She knew five of the harem women, together with Becka and Sandy had endured rapes. Somehow they had climbed out of the same hell she now inhabited.
“I’m sorry Rachael crossed over, Honey, she would have liked to meet you.” Michael said when Shoshana brought her, “Misha never got over her son raping Beth. It’s probably a good thing she didn’t know about what he did to you.” He took her into his arms.
Janet shook her head. “Shoshana saved me before Robert did anything to me. I’m sorry about Rachael and Michele.”
Michael liked how that sounded. He smiled into her frightened eyes.
“Do you swim?”
“A little,” he smiled, picked her up and threw her into the deep end. Beth, Shoshana and Jennifer dove after her. She came up with her hair plastered across her face, sputtering in a circle of happy faces.
It broke the serious tone of their return.
Alice pushed Michael in and then followed in a graceful dive. When she surfaced, laughter filled the pool deck. Michael was beside her.
Watching the girls splashing each other, Alice said to Michael, “You really are trying to put me out of business!”
Janet clung to Shoshana, wanting desperately to reverse the pain Shoshana had endured for protecting her.
Bodies flew into the pool. Three nannies stayed in the shallow end with the children.
Beth came to Janet, “Shosh, can I talk with Janet for a minute,” a clear command, though kindly phrased, Beth’s eyes were hard.
“Janet, Shoshana is my sister. I love her. She nearly died protecting you,” Beth looked into Janet’s green eyes, “she needs you to love her and forgive her.”
Janet’s eyes blazed. “I’d die for her. I saw what they did to her for protecting me. Why does everyone think I’m some monster? I hated her because I thought she helped them. Now I know better. How could I hurt her? I’m alive only because she got me out before the sick shit started.”
Michael and Beth had decided this was the best way to see if Janet had really forgiven Shoshana. They trusted both Tim and Alice, but they needed to see it with their own eyes.
Janet watched as Beth’s eyes went from cold to warm to loving.
Beth took Janet into her heart. She pulled her into a hug. Other harem sisters joined, including Shoshana.
Alice went to Michael. “Did you plan that?”
He feigned innocence. “Why do I bother? You have an innate sense of how to break through walls.” Alice said with a smile.
As the day wore on, they went to the lounge pool. Children ran to their mothers and aunts. Janet started to understand that the children were part of the solution and belonged to everyone.
Alice crashed, but Janet drank in the love and joy that surrounded them. She refused to leave.
She sat with Michael and Beth at a shaded table.
“Can I ask you something?” Janet asked softy.
“You actually “do” your own daughter?”
Michael nodded, waiting for the inevitable next question.
It never came. “She loves you. You’re her husband?”
Michael sighed and then nodded. “I’m her man. Kat, Beth, Alice, Jennifer, Rafaela and Shoshana are all my wives.”
“You can keep up with six women?”
“I can’t. Not a chance in hell. They love each other. It’s kind of a pre-requisite that my women are bi-sexual.”
“Honey, you’re here to heal, not become a harem mate. I owe you. I couldn’t get Shoshana to climb out of her guilt pit. You did.”
Shoshana and Janet became inseparable. Janet bonded with the other women, but she began to love Shoshana in a way she had never imagined possible. Shoshana became her older sister, mother and, she hoped one day, her lover.
Alice discovered a huge well of love in Janet. Within months, a Janet none expected began to emerge. She was smart, funny, happy and loving.
Alice was fascinated and intrigued on a professional level and attracted as Michael’s woman.
It was early summer in Australia, a time for rebirth. One night in late November, Shoshana and Janet were sitting on the lounge pool deck, enjoying the sea breeze and a glass of fine Australian wine.
Janet looked into Shoshana’s dark eyes.
“Shosh, do you think the DNA transfer would work for you?”
Shoshana’s glass stopped halfway to her mouth. Lynne had tried implantation of her egg, but it did not work. Then Lynne had left the harem. The implications raced through Shoshana’s mind.
“Jennifer is trying to get pregnant. She wants Michael’s child. Alice had problems with her delivery and shouldn’t have another. Rafaela shouldn’t try again. The only woman who could carry a child for me is Kat and she is committed to Beth. I could never ask her to carry my child.”
“What about me?”
Shoshana looked at the sea and slowly shook her head. “I could never be parted from my child and I could never let you know that pain.”
“And if I wore that ring? If I became part of Michael’s harem?”
“That’s a lifetime commitment, Jan,” she said sadly, “it’s made out of love of Michael.”
They sat quietly for a long time, each lost in their own thoughts.
Shoshana took Janet’s hand. That night, they slept in each other’s arms.